Oct. 06--Great news: Facebook is rolling out post searches.
Not-quite-as-great news: Everyone will be able to search all the dumb stuff you've posted to Facebook over the years.
On the surface, this update to Graph Search -- an update that is being rolled out gradually, so you might not have it yet -- is a welcome change. Graph Search made navigating Facebook a lot easier when it was added last spring; it was also incomplete, omitting posts and status updates from the searching fun.
Boom -- as of last week, that's changed. And for those who may be concerned about people stumbling across some old Facebook indiscretions, it might be a bit distressing as well.
Here's what's changed. Graph Search allows FB users a great deal of freedom to enter plain English queries to help track down the stuff they're looking for.
You could type things like "Photos I have liked," "Friends from Ohio" or "Cleveland Browns fans" and come up with a pretty thorough list of results.
One thing you couldn't do -- until the rollout started last week, anyway -- was search for posts or status updates. For those of us who want Facebook to be, you know, useful, that was a pretty hefty omission.
And now -- or, rather, as soon as you get the feature -- you can go back and look at what you've posted. Take a look at the screen cap from my work FB account; my query of "my posts from 2010" brought up the entire list, along with likes and comments.
Even better? You can do similar searches of other people's posts as well. Take a look at the second pic; that query, "posts tagged with me," brought up a whole bunch of mentions from my friends.
Cool, right? At least until someone is searching your posts and comes across that post in which you were doing keg stands in your neighbor's living room.
To its credit, FB has addressed this possibility with a change to its privacy settings. With a couple clicks, you can limit the availability of past posts to friends only. And if you have a lot of time to spend on this chore, you can also set the visibility of individual past posts. Here's how:
1) Click the lock icon in the upper right corner of your FB page. In the pop-up box that displays, click "See more settings."
2) On the next page (Privacy Settings and Tools), click "Limit past posts."
That will bring up a box that explains that you're about to change the availability of your old stuff to friends only. Click the button at the bottom of that box and you'll get a caution -- if you make this change, the only way to undo it is to change the setting for each individual post, so be sure you want to go ahead.
3) If you're doing it, click the button at the bottom of that window, and your old posts will be visible to friends only.
4) If you want to go back and make changes to individual posts -- like, say the one about the keg stands -- you can also visit your activity log to view every single thing you've ever done on Facebook.
On your posts, there is an icon with a drop-down menu. There, you can set that post to be visible to the public, to friends only, to only you or to custom groups that you define. If you're a busy Facebooker, going through each and every post will take a ridiculous amount of time, but if you want fine-grained control over your privacy settings, this is the way to go.
There are two overriding points about this change to Graph Search and the associated privacy settings, and Geeked readers have seen me mention each of them before:
While it's good that Facebook gives us the option to tinker with our privacy settings as it makes this change to Graph Search, it still doesn't do a good job of providing clear, simple access to our account settings. This is a big change. Like tech writers all over the country,
I'm happy to be able to explain how to find the settings you need, but what should really happen here is that the settings are easy enough find that FB users don't need help from people like me.
2) Social media is social. That means your stuff is out there, and there really isn't any foolproof means of ensuring that it doesn't end up on the screens of people who shouldn't see it. And that brings us back to Rule No. 1 about social media -- if you absolutely don't want a photo, a status update or a video to been seen by a particular someone, don't post it. If you think a post has the potential to cause you some trouble -- with a family member, a friend or, say, an employer -- don't post it.
Be smart about what you tweet or post on FB. Assume that your posts will be seen, not just by your friends but also by the public. And understand that its hard to make a post go away forever.
If you follow those simple rules, Facebook's privacy settings -- and last week's change to Graph Search -- won't cause you any problems.